Trans Pennine Trail V Tissington Trail

These two photographs tell a story and in the case of the Trans Pennine Trail, specifically the part of it through West Lancashire which is also known as the Cheshire Lines Path, it’s not a good one as far as maintenance is concerned

Trans Pennine Trail/Cheshire Lines path – Looking south from Cabin Lane Great Altcar – December 2020

Tissington Trail Derbyshire – March 2019

The difference in maintenance regimes is stark indeed yet (I thought*) both are National Trails and I’ve cycled them both.

I’ve commented on the terrible condition of the Cheshire Lines path, through West Lancashire, previously but it continues to deteriorate and seems to be fast becoming the forgotten Trail – so very sad. But before you shout ‘austerity’, which will of course clearly be a significant factor in recent years, this path has been suffering a lack of maintenance since it was fully opened some 30 years ago through West Lancashire. There was, in my view, hardly any maintenance to cut back on!

The part of the Trail/Path in Merseyside (Maghull) has seen some improvement work in recent years at the hands of the Merseyside North Volunteers. This is some of their excellent handiwork just north of the site of the former Sefton & Maghull Station and behind Sefton Drive, Maghull:-

* The Trans Pennine, it turns out, has not been made a National Trail (despite efforts to have it designated as such) and that probably indicates why its maintenance levels are not up to National Trail standards – With thanks to those correcting my view that it is a National Trail.

£175m (or even £2b) sounds a lot for cycling & walking BUT it’s not much really

To start off this posting please have a read of the article linked below from The Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport as it sums up where government thinking is seemingly heading quite well:-

ciltuk.org.uk/News/Latest-News/ArtMID/6887/ArticleID/32879/163175-million-more-for-cycling-and-walking-as-research-shows-public-support?gator_td=%2beI1zBnIYuYG7%2bOgusqjWGu5ZZ3%2bV4keUCmq3%2feVfXUBQ1EUrl6iRYVbt8AMDZa8BuPYg2Qec9tbYFzDd%2bowb%2fmeXmxqN51hO%2bWqAMtRbYK5EFnIW%2bJZy%2b9Bbs2rbZFBkIYukuNJZwTa74yXG%2fFBsa%2bjmt1QPIrPybd7EcLO7FMQgicqJmz9PJ9zZ1EWozrzCiROVULmgTH4DSsQ8w1KBg%3d%3d

News that government is to invest more in cycling and walking has to be welcome but let’s be honest an extra £175M spread across the country is not going to produce much at all; it will address the tip of a very big and long under-invested in iceberg at best.

But stop grumbling Robertson and come up with ways it could best be spent in Sefton and West Lancashire where you do most of your cycling. Well my first and most important advice to highway officers at Sefton Borough and Lancashire County Council’s is DON’T use what little money you get from this fund to try to do big projects. If you do a small area will get a big improvement but most cyclists won’t benefit at all. Please, please look at the myriad of small things you can do to make cycling safer and try to connect up obvious places which real cyclists want to get to and from. Presently the cycle network, other than in places like York, is a hotch- potch of bits and bobs all over the place which rarely connect with anywhere at all.

Safe cycling routes to schools is an obvious one to tackle but so are safe routes to railway stations, shopping centres, museums, leisure centres etc. Oh and don’t forget that secure cycle storage facilities are required too at each destination.

This is of course a subject I’ve banged on about before – see links below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/09/03/maghull-lydiates-berlin-wall-the-bible-of-cycling-infrastructure/

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/05/03/maghull-lydiate-melling-simple-cycling-fixes-for-sefton-council-to-undertake/

And I noticed another easy fix for Sefton Council only today on Maghull’s Liverpool Road North (the section with a service road from the Westway to Green Lane junctions) where a dropped kerb outside Cornmill Lodge would enable northbound cyclists to access safer cycling on that service road. Obviously suitable bollards would be required to stop vehicles following suit!

Yes of course the rather grandiose safe cycling project to connect up Maghull with Kirkby is welcome but it’s one hell of a big investment for not a huge benefit for the majority of local cyclists. And that’s my point here; get the small easy fixes out of the way first because they will make a big difference to safe cycling. Oh and make sure that all projects that go through highways departments are scrutinised by cyclists before they are approved or you end up creating new highway infrastructure that all but excludes cyclists like the terrible new Alt Junction on the A59 in Maghull.

Walking and cycling destinations from Rimrose Valley County Park Country Park.

By the way the reference to Councils having to consult (see 1st linked article above) on how the money is spent is both welcome and interesting as my understanding is that with the money released by government during Lockdown 1 there was an instruction from government to benefiting councils not to consult!

With thanks to Mike Perkins for the lead to this posting

Slow map: Mapping Britain’s intercity footpaths

This is a fascinating piece of work (see link below) trying to recreate walking routes which have all but been forgotten

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-54562137

Unless you’re someone who owns Ordnance Survey maps, which detail every public right of way/public footpath, and you know how to read them then even your local footpaths may be all but unknown to you.

I love studying maps, particularly OS maps, and I usually buy one for any place/area we are visiting around the country. My interest will often be to identify safe cycling routes but I used to do a lot of walking before taking up cycling and these maps provide loads of useful information both activities. So what’s the problem, why do such routes need to be redefined?

The problem is that often whilst the vast majority of public footpaths are marked on the ground by finger pointing signs, not all are. Additionally some that are marked don’t make clear where they go to – look at this example:-

In fact this sign is at the end of Millbank Lane on the Maghull/Aughton Sefton/West Lancs boundary and its pointing to a path which leads to Butchers Lane in Aughton but when you walk the shortish distance along the path there are no further signs pointing the best way to anywhere at all.

Now here’s an example which both makes clear where the paths go and how far the destinations are:-

Walking and cycling destinations from within Rimrose Valley Country Park.

Local Borough and District Councils are responsible for public rights of way and some are better at it than others in defining and maintaining them as I’ve found after many years of walking all over the north of England. But what in my view is almost never made clear along these routes/paths is what is the best way from A to B be it Maghull to Town Green or anywhere else. This is probably because the knowledge about footpaths and walking routes was at one time well known in all communities and this information was shared generation to generation as walking to work, shop and school etc. was pretty much the only way to get there. Now in the world where most of us go virtually anywhere in a tin box on wheels the use of these routes has declined and the knowledge about them is in few hands.

I like this project as if it’s successful it will have so many benefits to the environment and indeed our individual health if we regularly walk and cycle short to medium length journeys (subject to us being physically able to of course) instead of jumping into the Audi on the drive. But like the need to make many thousands of miles of safe cycling routes across the country this walking plan will need significant investment in mapping, signage and maintenance and for a society that has only thrown crumbs from the table of motoring towards such things for generations it will be a huge change in transportation policy which politicians will fear to implement because of the all-powerful motorist lobby.

Encouraging more walking & cycling – well I never

Walking and cycling destinations from Rimrose Valley County Park Country Park.

The BBC has the story on its website – see link below:-

www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-52592421

Quote from BBC article – ‘We need to protect the public transport network as lockdown is lifted, the UK Transport Secretary is expected to say at a press conference on Saturday.

The BBC understands Grant Shapps will encourage the public to continue to work from home if they can.

Those people who need to travel into a workplace will be urged to consider choosing more active ways to travel like walking and cycling.

The intention is to take pressure off roads and public transport networks.

It is believed that Mr Shapps will talk about using the unique “opportunity” of the lockdown restrictions to change the way we get to work.’

That folks are walking and cycling more during our present health crisis is a given and it’s clearly a big positive, along with less pollution producing traffic of course, in these difficult times. Interestingly though governments have shown little enthusiasm for promoting healthier pollution-free ways to travel over many generations other than via sound-bite token nods towards walking and cycling to try to make themselves look green.

Now, however, government is in a fix when it comes to unlocking lockdown due to buses and trains not being able to move large groups of people because of social distancing requirements. The consequence could and probably will be grid-lock on our roads as more folks turn to their polluting cars. All of a sudden Government needs a way to stop traffic jams so ‘get on your bike’ as the rather unpleasant Norman Tebbit once said although in a totally different context.

Of course for health/fitness, reducing pollution and traffic congestion reasons government is right but, and it’s a big BUT, our cycling infrastructure is poor, inadequate, crap etc. compared with many other European countries. You see more enlightened European governments have been investing in it over all those generations that UK politicians have been making but token noises and throwing the odd crumb off the table. How the chickens have come home to roost…….

A map produced to show Merseyside/Liverpool City Region cycling route aims of recent times. Many are still that aims….

My previous blog posting of January 2019, regarding quite limited plans to improve walking and cycling infrastructure on Merseyside seems to be relevant too, so here it is:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/01/11/walking-and-cycling-in-the-liverpool-city-region-lcr/

Click on the photos to enlarge them…….

The case for free public transport and getting on with (rather than talking about) bus re-regulation

Vintage Ribble bus photoed at the West Lancs Light Railway in 2018

Very soon after I got involved in politics I attended a Liberal Party conference in Blackpool, I think it was in 1980. On the agenda was a motion for debate that was all about making public transport free to use in and around towns and cities. If memory serves David Alton, MP for Liverpool Edge Hill, was backing the motion and he must have made a powerful case because ever since I’ve held the view that free public transport (or with a nominal fare) would one day become a reality.

David Alton MP

That conference motion of 40 years ago was clearly well before its time so to speak but the reasons for it were sound then and look even more sound now as we have arrived at a Climate Emergency and are suffering air pollution problems that are quite literally killing us!

Of course the underlying reason for that 1980 debate was to try to start a process of reducing reliance on cars by making high quality public transport a viable attractive alternative particularly in urban areas. That only 2 years later the Conservatives passed the Bus Deregulation Act pushing things in totally the opposite direction is at best ironic! What’s more urban areas like Manchester and Liverpool are presently trying to find ways to re-regulate bus services because they are in crisis, but more on that later.

In rural areas, sadly, bus services are all but extinct in parts of Lancashire although that’s as much about the lack of public money to subsidise vital routes as it is a cause of the Bus Deregulation Act. Add into all this the chaos created via the privatisation of our railways, which are now widely seen as dysfunctional, and it should make politicians who created this mess (and those who have failed to get us out of it) feel very much ashamed – but of course it doesn’t.

So whilst we should have been developing high quality subsidised public transport to tackle road congestion, air pollution and accessibility to all kinds of services for those without access to cars our governments have been pushing public policy further towards reliance on cars!

Merseyrail train at Maghull North Station

But across Europe’s cities and regions there’s been experimenting with and policy changes in favour of free public transport, whilst they’ve rarely gone down the road & rail to ruin routes that the UK has chosen for itself. I think Luxembourg is the latest convert. The downside to public transport being free (other than paying for it of course) is the potential for it to have the unintended consequence of encouraging folk to do the exact opposite of what they need to do. I’m talking here of walking and cycling because if we create a system where say short walkable journeys reduce because folk get on the free public transport we’ve solved one problem but inadvertently created another with negative health consequences.

But to go back to that re-regulation issue, which I’ve heard talked about for more years than I care to mention particularly on Merseyside, is it going to be action or more taking? I ask as the Liverpool City Region Mayor has popped up recently to rehash all the old arguments in favour of re-regulation. Now don’t get me wrong I with him but I just wish he’d get on with it! No more talking Steve!!!!

310 Ribble bus in Maghull – Photo credit Arnold Richardson/Photobus

We know the bus companies and their shareholders won’t like it, that’s a given, but we need as a matter of some urgency an integrated public transport system of high quality buses and trains. What’s more we need it to deliver far less CO2 emissions (thinking of diesel powered buses in particular here)and be good enough (punctual, fast, reliable and running 7 days per week) to make us want to ditch our cars for many local journeys.

So yes re-regulate the buses, integrate them properly with the trains and start to look seriously at either free public transport or nominal ticket prices.

Walking and cycling in the Liverpool City Region (LCR)

Via my good friend Sefton Councillor John Dodd I have become aware of a web site called Arrive Happy in the past few days:- Here it is via the link below:-

www.arrivehappy.org/our-cycling-and-walking-masterplan

As I understand things 31 walking/cycling routes were previously identified across the City Region/Merseyside and now 9 of them are to be progressed towards a funding bid.

Liverpool City Region Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) – I’m told that the LCR Transport Partnership, have identified, using the evidence collected, a total of 31 potential cycling and walking corridors. The previously agreed and approved methodology used for the Active Travel prioritisation process has identified 9 corridors to be developed in more detail with a view to submitting a bid for Transforming Cities Fund funding.

I understand that these 9 corridors will form the basis of the next phase of the LCWIP and will be subject to formal engagement with stakeholders across the LCR which started on the 17th December with an engagement meeting with key stakeholders in the morning and the launch of an online survey into cycling and walking in the city region – www.arrivehappy.org/our-cycling-and-walking-masterplan

The two diagrams below show firstly the 31 identified potential corridors and then the 9 to be taken forward for more detailed design work. More detail will be shared, I understand, as the plan develops.

BUT if you live in Sefton Borough

Now I don’t know about you but if you live in Sefton Borough north of Bootle then there’s little to cheer about as no routes have made it into the 9 to be taken forward! I hold no information as to why this is the case although above you will see reference to an ‘approved methodology’ for choosing the routes to take forward. However, to say the least, I’m at best disappointed. On the ’31 map’ Maghull, despite being a large community, does not even get a mention!

Note:- Click on the two graphics above to enlarge them